Channel 4 confirms job cuts as it announces ambitious plan to drive its online service, with more streaming-only channels.
- Channel 4 to reduce headcount by 18%.
- Target to double number of users who subscribe to Channel 4+
- More online-only content, including more FAST channels. But Box Music channels to close this year.
- Criticism of lack of pay restraint by senior managers, as Channel 4 suffers more than other broadcasters from recent advertising downturn.
Channel 4 has announced a scheme called “Fast Forward”, a five-year strategy that will accelerate the broadcaster’s shift online.
The strategy promises to make the broadcaster “leaner, simpler and nimbler”, as it faces severe losses following a downturn on advertising. 18% of 200 jobs will go. And a further 40 unfilled vacancies will also be removed.
To counteract this, Channel 4’s ‘Fast Forward’ scheme will see the broadcaster focus more greatly on streaming. This includes a target to double it current number of subscribers, who pay for the ad-free version of Channel 4.
It also plans to make more content available on platforms such as YouTube. The end goal, according to Channel 4? To become a digital-first* public service streamer by 2030.
As a result, there’ll be less money for traditional linear digital TV channels. The first channels to go will be the Box Music channels, which include Kiss, Kerrang and Magic TV channels. They’ll close later this year with further channels to be axed at “the right time”, according to C4.
Instead, Channel 4 will invest in more streaming-only or FAST channels. It has already piloted a dedicated Married At First Sight channel in the UK. These streaming channels will be available through Channel 4’s streaming service, but will have an opportunity to launch on the next-generation Freeview replacement service Freely.
It also wants to monetise its output more, with plans to build a “double-digit million ecommerce business by 2030 to allow viewers to interact and purchase products through digital platforms”.
News of impending cuts at Channel 4 have been circulating for weeks. It had a difficult 2023, taking the axe to a number of formats to save money.
But as other broadcasters ride the wave of an advertising downturn, it seems Channel 4 has been the worst affected. There have been calls for Channel 4’s well-paid management to take their share of the cuts, amidst reports of large pay settlements.
It will need a lot more than a statement ridden with buzzwords to turn Channel 4 around.
Channel 4 has also never been open about exactly how many Channel 4+ subscribers it actually has. As a result, the target to double that number is extremely vague and possibly meaningless given the hundred of thousands or even millions of paying subscribers that major streaming companies have in the UK.
*EXPLAINER | “Digital-first”: When broadcasters talk of digital-first they actually mean online-first. Essentially it means content becomes available on streaming or on-demand first or even exclusively online.
We at RXTV find the term unprecise and an exercise in corporate waffle; it seems the digital switch of over a decade ago has been forgotten by media management – broadcasting is already all-digital.
You may recall that digital-first originally meant that some programmes appeared on digital sister channels like E4 before the main terrestrial service, back when the main terrestrial service was still analogue.